A professional artist-in-residence used to stop backstage every night to watch a monitor as Teresa Petrosky Wallace performed her scene in Casper College’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Teresa’s husband, Dob Wallace, noticed the pattern while backstage himself in the production.
“She’s just so good,” the artist-in-residence explained.
Teresa held their oldest son, Graham, as a baby in the production. She and Dob had met a few years earlier as the leading lady and man in “Catch Me if You Can” at Stage III Community Theater. Their stage romance eventually became a marriage. Their three children were on stage before they were born and grew up in local theaters.
In March, Teresa and Dob performed opposite each other for the last time on stage, in “All My Sons” at Stage III.
Teresa spent three decades changing lives as a counselor and inspiring others in community theater. She died at 59 on Saturday after a massive stroke. Her family and many friends remember her talent, support, humor and the light she brought to others onstage and off.
A celebration of life takes place 10 a.m. Friday at Newcomer Cremations, Funerals & Receptions in Casper followed by a “Teresa’s Cast Party“ drop-in reception from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Stage III. Information and potluck planning can be found at the Facebook event page.
“We’re returning to that joy and positivity because she wouldn’t have it any other way,” Dob said. “We have to celebrate her life and not mourn it.”
Teresa — who worked for 26 years at Casper College, where she was the director of counseling for six years before retiring in 2017 — performed in more than 50 Stage III plays, including many leads in shows like “Medea” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
“She had this artistic talent, this expressive talent, but I’ve always really felt that her ability as a counselor, her empathy, was one of the reasons for her huge success as an actress,” Dob said. “Because she would just bring that onto the stage.”
She often acted alongside Dob and their children, and the whole family once appeared in the Casper Children’s Theater in “A Christmas Story.”
Her performance as Linda Loman in “Death of a Salesman” inspired her then-teenage son Will to return to theater, he said.
“I don’t do theater for the applause; I don’t do this for the recognition; I don’t do this to even have the leading roles,” fellow community theater actor Tricia Lovelace recalled Teresa once telling her. “I do this because I want to create something beautiful, and I want to share it with people.”
When she wasn’t acting, Teresa was in the audience and working behind the scenes, from choosing plays to most recently working on the latest escape room at Stage III, longtime friend Pat Greiner said.
“She wasn’t just a performer,” said Dawn Anderson Coates. “She was your head cheerleader. She went to everything you were in.”
Theater friends remember her as a pillar of Stage III, a shoulder to cry on, and a sister or mother to everyone in the theater, where the kids called her “Mama T.”
“You couldn’t help but smile and feel better when Teresa was in the room,” Lovelace said. “She didn’t have to do anything; just her presence was enough to make you feel better because she just radiated positivity and light.”
Teresa began her counseling career in Chicago with youth service agencies, helping with kids in tough situations after excelling academically at Purdue University and the University of Kansas.
She told her parents as a child in Indiana that she’d live near mountains, Dob said, and she arrived in Wyoming in 1989, according to her obituary.
She began working at Casper College in 1991.
“One of her best assets as a therapist was her ability to focus on what is right with people, not just what is wrong,” director of counseling Joanne Theobald said in a text. “Basically positive psychology.”
Micki, Teresa’s daughter, plans to become a psychiatrist because she saw her mother as a superhero.
“So maybe she didn’t wear a cape and she didn’t have flying powers or telepathy or anything. But she saved lives every day.”
It wasn’t just at work that Teresa helped others, but even strangers in the supermarket were drawn to her caring presence, Micki recalled.
“She had a fantastic ability to turn on the light when it’s dark,” Micki said.
Teresa had many friends and hobbies, loved being in nature and volunteered for causes like multiple sclerosis and cancer, according to her obituary. Of all her roles, the ones she loved most were mother and wife, her friends and family agreed. She was especially devoted to her children, Dob said. Graham said she was always there to guide them and “kick them in the butt” when they needed it.
Her many passions matched her myriad skills from writing to sports. She enjoyed soccer and set a 200-meter record in high school that stands today, Dob said. She loved dancing, whether in a Casper College class or at street dances, where eyes were drawn by the same magnetism she showed on stage, Dob said.
“When you saw her dance, it was almost as if her spirit lifted her off the ground and she was floating,” Micki said. “That’s how much she loved it.”
‘Laughter will continue’
It’s going to be a tough upcoming season at Stage III, some of Teresa’s friends there said. They agreed she would want them to continue their passion and keep finding joy, Anderson Coates said.
Friday, those attending the Stage III reception are encouraged to not wear black.
“I know that after the loss is gone,” Anderson Coates said, “the laughter will continue.”